It is supposed to be a place of serenity and meditation. But I did not feel serene or meditative; I did not feel prayerful. It is supposed to be a place where you can go to be alone. But I was not alone. My thoughts tore at me like jagged teeth: you'll never be happy. You don't deserve it. I need stillness in a place like that. I need to hear the wind rushing quietly through the prayer flags, unwinding thread by thread each faithful plea. But it was my mind unraveling instead.
I went inside and rested my hand against the big brass wheel. I remembered the monks walking around the temple in McLeod Ganj, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Closed my eyes. Saw them walking in the late-evening light tinted hazy gold from the cooking fires. Tears sprang to my eyes as if stung by the smoke; I longed to return there. Which way were they going? Spinning the prayer wheels, but in what direction? I could not remember--my mind saw their saffron robes, but not which hands they rested on the wheels, not which direction they walked. I hesitated, then started walking to the right.
You're supposed to go clockwise, someone said. You're doing it wrong. And I was. I remembered it wrong, remembered the monks walking to the right, counter-clockwise, not the left. I don't know why. So I un-wound the desperate prayer I was there to say; I said it backwards. Back words. Om mani padme hum. Hum padme mani om. The pure Buddha-nature regressing back into the elemental, impure, un-exalted state.
And that is how I have remained. Cloudy of mind, clumsy of speech, dark and sad in nature. Like a storm cloud that will not rain. Perhaps, after all, this is what it means to be mentally ill. Divorced from the divine, we wander. We hear it calling us back, but we turn away in shame. I did it wrong. We are invited to try again. Say the words. Lift our prayer flags to the wind. If we have given up hope, then re-claim it. Nothing has been done that cannot be undone. Or, more correctly, nothing has been undone that cannot be redone, put back together, renewed, given wings.
"You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."